**This post includes an excerpt with adult language**
LETTING CHARACTERS GET LUCKYNow I know what you're thinking, and before we go any farther, I'm not talking about THAT kind of getting lucky. (For now.) :) I'm talking about those moments when a book character catches a break for once.
As readers, we love to follow along as a character struggles and gets knocked down. That conflict holds our interest and keeps the pages turning. But hey, at some point we want to see fate smile down and give the hero/heroine their due. As authors, we're taught to torment our characters until they beg for mercy (and if we're writing BDSM, we'll torture some more), but we have to remember to pepper in little victories along the way. We always want to cheer for the good way and revel in those glory moments.
Still, when we let a character get lucky, do we let them stay that way? Now there's the question.
There are as many different ways to let a character "get lucky" as there are story ideas, but for the sake of this blog I'll use the example of literal luck. Let's say that after being seriously down on his luck, our character wins the lottery. There are three ways (and arguably more) that an author can play out the scenario.
1. Yay! He wins, pays all his bills, gets the girl, buys a faithful dog, and rides (or sails his new yacht) into the sunset. The End.
This can be a fun way to set things right for the good-guy underdog character who has tried and failed throughout the book. Still, that kind of "eleventh hour miracle" can be something of a plot cheat that works occasionally, but is not always smiled upon by editors (or readers).
So how about a twist?
2. Yay! He wins. He rushes home with the winning ticket to stop the bank auctioneer, who is about to sell off the house. But wait, just as he's about to solve everything, he finds out that there's been a mistake. His lottery ticket isn't actually a winner, or that he's only won a small amount.
Letting characters (and readers) have that YAY! moment, then pulling it away again can be a good way of keeping tension going and avoiding that whole "miracle solution" problem. Pull it away too often, or at the tail end of a (standalone) book, however, might have readers tossing the book across the room. Especially in the case of e-readers, this is not a happy situation.
Or there's this one:
3. Yay! He wins. He quits the fast food job he took in desperation, buys a fancy car and house, and he thinks he never has to worry again. But wait, that's not the end of the rainbow. He loses most of his friends and family because they feel he should be giving them more money than he does. The trophy wife he marries goes out and cheats on him. And he spends more time stressing out about getting robbed or losing everything than he did worrying about being broke before he won.
Sometimes, letting characters get everything (they think) they want can have repercussions that wind up becoming a new conflict or even something of an antagonist in the plot, which can prove more interesting than the everything's-coming-up-roses scenario.
While 2 and 3 might ultimately prove the more exciting plot devices, hopefully the characters go on to either solve the original problem in other ways, or else they discover that their setback paves the way for a whole new situation/outlook that renders the initial problem moot. Sure, there are books where the good guys don't win, but think of your favorite tales. I believe the majority allow the heroes/heroines to have the shining moment after the long haul, much like we all hope for in real life. :)
Which way do you like your characters to get lucky: 1, 2, or 3? Let me know in the comments and I'll enter you in a drawing to win a digital copy of my cowboy menage, CRYSTAL'S COWBOYS (1 random commenter selected April 14th) as well as my $25 Gift Card to Bath & Body Works (1 winner chosen May 1 from among April commenters and participants in the contest.)
Here's an excerpt from a "lucky" moment in CRYSTAL'S COWBOYS. (Which type of lucky is it? Without giving anything away, let's just say the happy rug will get pulled out from under them before long):
Siren Menage Amour
Trey’s grin set Crystal’s pulse on fast forward. “I like my bets safe.”
“I thought you liked it hard.”
“Oh, I’m gettin’ hard.” He let go of the dice.
“Seven’s a winner!” the caller said.
A few rolls and sips of her drink later, the entire table was undulating and pulsing with the heady power of lady luck.
“He’s up almost eight thousand,” she said to Rafael.
“I’ve never seen him on fire like this. Must be the hot woman givin’ him all the luck.”
She batted her eyelashes. “Yeah, that redhead’s really workin’ it by leaning over to show her cleavage every few seconds.”
He nudged her arm. “I meant you, hottie.”
“I didn’t give him all my luck. Some was for you, remember?” She kissed Rafael, too, only when she tried to break off he held her head to his and thrust his tongue into her mouth. He tasted tart and tangy from the orange juice and vodka screwdrivers he was drinking. Her stomach was doing little flips of need by the time he pulled back.
The redhead was now gazing at her with undisguised curiosity, no doubt wondering how Crystal had gotten her lips onto both the sexiest men at the table. Crystal raised a brow at the woman and gave a knowing smile.
“Bet a hard one,” Crystal said to Trey, nodding to the center of the table where the stick man was placing a few other player’s chips.
“You mean a hard way. Those are sucker bets.”
“You like getting sucked. Win and I’ll remind you how much.”
His eyes glittered. “I think I like you when you’re drinkin’. Name the bet, darlin’.”
She eyed the table. “Eleven.”
His brow rose. “High odds against.”
“But think of the damn sweet payoff.”
He growled and pulled a hundred dollar chip from his stack—followed by several others.
Crystal’s eyes bugged out. “I didn’t mean that much.”
He shrugged. “You want to play it hard? Let’s play it hard. There’s a lot more at stake than ten chips, you know. I aim for you to make good on that promise later.”
The dealer placed Trey’s thousand dollar bet while Crystal’s heart tried to pound its way out of her chest. Sure, he was already thousands ahead, but knowing he’d flushed a grand down the toilet because alcohol turned her reckless felt terrible.
“Gimme some of that sugar luck, then,” he said. “Let’s do it.”
Her hands were shaking when she leaned over to blow on his fist, and she hid behind his broad back unable to watch when he made the throw.
The roar of the crowd and Rafael’s insane whoop told her the story before the stick man even called it.
“Yo!” the table said simultaneously. Trey was slapped on the back several times, and the room started spinning around Crystal.
“We won?” she asked Rafael in a breathless whisper.
Then he was kissing her, and Trey grabbed her up and kissed her, knocking his hat off. “Here you go, lucky lady.” He pressed a stack of chips into her hand. “A little something if you want to try that luck firsthand.”
“Fifteen to one odds,” Rafael said to Trey. “You lucky stallion. Holy shit on a stick, I ain’t never seen anythin’ like it.”
~ * ~ * ~ * ~
Okay, who else is feeling lucky? Post in the comments and let me know. :)
J. Rose Allister is the author of more than twenty-five books, primarily romance and erotic romance. A former editor and submissions director, she now works as a mild-mannered hospital secretary by day, naughty writer by night. Connect with her on Twitter or Goodreads. She loves talking to people.